The parents of a 15-year-old girl who died after consuming a “legal high” have issued a heartbreaking warning to other teens.
Leah Kerry, from Devon in southwest England, was found unconscious in a park near her home in the early hours of July 15.
She was rushed to the local hospital but later died with her parents by her side.
Two other girls who were believed to have consumed the same substance were taken to hospital as a precaution but were later released.
Kerry's parents have described the loss of their "kind and loving" daughter as "the most painful experience that we have all ever had to endure."
"Leah was a delightful strong-willed, caring and compassionate child and had developed into a courageous and confident young woman," her parents said in a statement issued through Devon and Cornwall Police.
"Leah lit up any room she walked into with her incredible personality, sense of humour, striking looks and demeanour."
It's believed Kerry died after she suffered an adverse reaction after taking a new psychoactive substance (NPS), formerly known as a "legal high."
Despite their name, Detective Superintendent Ken Lamont warned that the drugs involved are not legal, or safe, at all.
"They're not legal. They're illegal. They're very, very dangerous, probably more dangerous than traditional drugs," he said, according to The Sun.
"People do not know what it is in them," he added. "It is a real safeguarding plea to the community. Don't touch new psychoactive substances, they are very, very dangerous."
In May 2016, the UK made it illegal to produce, supply or import NPS for human consumption as a part of the Psychoactive Substances Act.
According to the Australian Drug Foundation, NPS are designed to mimic the effects of other illicit drugs, like cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.
The biggest misconception surrounding NPS is that they are sometimes advertised as "legal highs," despite many being labelled as unsafe for human consumption as they are unregulated and untested.
Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have "blanket bans" in place in regards to possessing or selling any substance that has a "psychoactive effect other than alcohol, tobacco and food."
Kerry's parents and family said she was "well aware" of the dangers of taking illicit substances and drugs.
"Sadly, despite being well aware of the risks, she thought she was invincible and she rolled the dice and has paid the ultimate price," they said.
"If there are any young people who have known Leah, or who have heard about her story, I would urge them on Leah's behalf to not make the same mistake and to make better and safer choices when out in the community."
"If even one young person decides to reduce their risk taking behaviour and not take these dangerous NPS tablets, then Leah’s death has not been in vain," the family added.
"It's so shocking that a 15-year-old girl who is socialising with other 15-year-old peers is able to easily have access to a drug so strong that it could lead to her death in the way that it did."
A 20-year-old man has been charged with two counts of supplying MDMA and one count of supplying cannabis in connection to Leah's death.
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